Saturday, April 20, 2024

Right Eminent Grand Commander

Today I had the great honor of being installed as the Right Eminent Grand Commander of the Grand Commandery of Knights Templar of the State of Idaho. I am excited to work alongside the new Most Excellent Grand High Priest and the newly installed Most Illustrious Grand Master. It was an interesting, for lack of a better word, session as I presided as our now Junior Past Grand Commander was recently diagnosed with Stage 4 Liver Cancer and because of his medical treatments, he couldn't attend the Conclave. I ask everyone to please keep him in your prayers.

I was installed by Sir Knight G. Arthur Shoemaker, Past Grand Commander of Idaho, who knighted me and has greatly impacted my Masonic career. Assisting him were Sir Knight John W. Zeller Sr., Past Grand Commander of Idaho, who appointed me to the Grand Commandery line; Sir Knight David A. Grindle, Past Grand Commander of Idaho, who was Senior Warden when I was knighted and has been a constant companion throughout Freemasonry; and Sir Knight Jeremy C. Vaughn, Past Grand Commander of Idaho and current Northwest Department Commander of the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar, who is one of my dearest friends.

I am proud to serve over this august body. Even though it is third-in-line of the York Rite bodies, the Templar orders stand as the second oldest of the York Rite bodies established in Idaho (Royal Arch being the first) and the Grand Commandery of Idaho sits as the oldest Grand body of the three York Rite organizations in Idaho. There existed five Commanderies in Idaho before a Grand Commandery was formed. The first Commandery was given dispensation on May 24, 1882, and chartered as Idaho Commandery No.1 on September 11, 1882; 14 years after the first Royal Arch Chapter was established in Idaho. This Commandery existed just under 22 years before the formation of the Grand Commandery. According to the Proceedings on August 31, 1904, Sir Knights from five Commanderies met and organized the Grand Commandery of Knights Templar of the State of Idaho. Assembling in the Asylum of Idaho Commandery No.1 where the Eminent Commander, John McBirney, called a meeting to order and on motion, Sir Knight James A. Pinney was chosen as Chairman and J.O. Baker as Secretary. After reading the warrant issued by the Most Eminent Grand Master of the Grand Encampment, it was moved to form the Grand Commandery. Sir Knight James Pinney acted in place of the Most Eminent, filled the chairs, and held the first elections where he was elected as the first Right Eminent Grand Commander.

As a mark of distinction, the Grand Commander wears a red cord with two red tassels that hang around the neck and ends with a jewel representing the office of the Right Eminent Grand Commander of Idaho. Now, per the Grand Encampment, a Grand Commandery officer wears a red Maltese cross and the jewel of the Grand Commander should reflect this, but this rule was created after the Grand Commandery of Idaho had this jewel created so this jewel was grandfathered in. The Idaho Grand Commander's jewel is a Patriarchal Cross suspended from a triangle with a Maltese Cross with the phrase "In Hoc Signo Vinces" at the intersection of the upper crossbar and a Latin cross at the intersection of the lower crossbar (See picture).

While it is going to be a busy year, I am looking forward to it. Because Idaho is so widespread and because of my hectic work schedule, I will be holding virtual Quarterly meetings where I will invite the Grand Commandery officers, Commanders, Recorders, and Committee Chairman to attend, but all Sir Knights will be welcome to attend. These meetings will assist those officers following me in line with the government of this Grand Commandery, help spread the load so that it is not on the Grand Recorder or Grand Commander all of the time, identify deficiencies during the year and not at the end, and ensure transparency between the constituent Commanderies and Grand Commandery.

Inspired by my trip to Israel and Templar research, I designed a coin that will be gifted to dignitaries and sold. The profits from the sales will go to the Grand Encampment’s Holy Land Pilgrimage. On the front of the coin is the jewel of the Grand Commander of Idaho with the red representing the rope that the jewel is suspended from. The back of the coin shows Abraxas with seven stars and the words “TEMPLI SECRETUM". In researching Templar symbols, I found that a Grand Master of the medieval Knights Templar in 1214 used as their seal that displays Abraxas with the words “TEMPLI SECRETUM." It is interesting to note that this seal was not used for particularly significant Templar documents, but can be found on ordinary, seemingly unimpressive, historical records like those dating from 13th century France.

Abraxas (Greek: ΑΒΡΑΞΑΣ) is a god written about in Gnostic texts and may also be known as Abrasax (as there is thought to have been a mistranslation from Greek to Latin). Carl Jung in his writings on the Seven Sermons to the Dead stated that Abraxas was a god higher than Jehovah. He is said to be the father of all things, "the power above all and the First Principle," and the ruler of 365 heavens. It is said that Abraxas created Nuos and Logos which led to Providence, Virtue, and Wisdom which gave rise to Principalities and Powers, and from "from these infinite productions and emissions of angels." It is these angels who govern the 365 heavens which were said to include the Judeo-Christian God, Jehovah, which followers of Basilides denied of being a god, but rather an angel. This obviously was not a very popular belief in the 2nd century and Basilides is considered a heretic and damned by many historical Roman Catholic figures. Some have speculated that the imagery of the Anguipede (a mythological creature that has snakes for its lower appendages) represents emanations of this being which are as follows: The human body is displayed as it is written that God created man in his own image. The snakes represent the two great supports of man given by God, Nous (mind, intellect) and Logos (reason and judgment). The cock (rooster), being the creature who traditionally greets the golden dawn, is an emblem of foresight and vigilance. He carries the shield of wisdom and the whip or flail is said to be the "whip of Helios" (Abraxas is associated with the Sun) which represents dynamism or strength/power. No one knows the origins of Abraxas and the relics associated with him. Some believe that it originated with a man named Basilides (an Alexandrian mystic) in the 2nd Century AD, but even then it cannot be proven, and is also hypothesized that it was transmitted to him from another source, yet unknown to us in modern times. Abraxas was also referred to as the Great Archon, the Lord Creator, Almighty God, and Greatest God. Many have attempted to guess as to the reason the Templars would use such an image, but without proper records and evidence, it all falls into the realm of speculation. Historical writings and modern scholars have drawn parallels between Abraxas and Mithras of Persia as well as beliefs found in Hinduism. It is possible that the Templars were introduced to Abraxas through their time in the Middle East, but again, without hard evidence, we can only imagine. Although it is an interesting symbol, the use of this seal does not mean that the Templar Order was a Gnostic one. There are many interesting symbols used by the ancient Templars. Some of these symbols are still seen or used today in Masonic orders that have similar names to commemorate the deeds of these great men. It is a tragedy that too little of the Templars remains for analysis and study. The symbols we know seem to resonate with their dual personality of being men of the cloth, of God, and being warriors feared on the battlefield. While not conclusive, it leads to a belief of influence by Gnostic and Eastern beliefs that the Templars may have encountered in their travels.

I don’t make promises about how many new Sir Knights will be initiated during my year. As many have said, it is not at the Grand Commandery where we will solve any membership issues. It is in the Commandery, the Council, the Chapter, and the Lodge in which that will happen. My promise and my goal this year is to grow our presence with the Masonic and non-Masonic community, to invigorate our Constituent Commanderies, and to ensure Templary continues in Idaho. Ensuring that we keep our current Sir Knights and inspiring new members to join.

This weekend also included the Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of Idaho (where I represented the General Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons International) and Grand Council of Cryptic Masons of Idaho as well as the annual meetings of the Idaho Council of the Order of High Priesthood, Idaho Council of the Order of the Silver Trowel, Idaho Chapter of Knights Preceptor, Syringa Order No.121 of the Order of the Sword of Bunker Hill, Idaho Priory No.13 of the Knights of the York Cross of Honor, Templar Honors Dinner (For recipients of the Knight Commander of the Temple, Knight Templar Cross of Honor, Campanion of the Temple, and Knight Grand Cross, and their significant other), and Tri-Valley College No.178 of the York Rite Sovereign College of North America. At the Templar Honors Dinner, my Mother received the Companion of the Temple (CT). This is an award given to men and women for their support of Templary, but who are not Knights Templar themselves.

I was happy to have David Studley, Right Eminent Grand Encampment of the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar USA, and Sir Knight James McGee, Past Grand Commander of Alabama, present at the Conclave and my installation.

Now, I must get some sleep for a quick meeting of Intermountain Chapel No.27 of the Commemorative Order of St. Thomas of Acon in the morning where I will go out of office as Worthy Master and pass the baton onto my successor.

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